Norwitz Notions

Norwitz Notions random header image

Census Tricks

December 2nd, 2022 · by Cyndi · No Comments

Now this is a bit of advanced genealogical sleuthing. How do you find people in a document that don’t seem to be there?

Teasing Out Census Entries

For those of you who have searched for families in the Census records on Ancestry or FamilySearch or elsewhere, you know that often the person you’re looking for pops right up in the search feature and sometimes you have to finagle it a bit.

People use different names at times or different spellings or nicknames. Sometimes the transcription, which is the only thing the search engine can use to search on, is pretty far off. Other times there’s an error right on the document itself.

One intermediate level feature is manual searching, and you need an address for that. Head to Steve Morse’s excellent (indispensable) site and choose the Unified Census ED Finder. Pick the year from the dropdown menu, then the state, county, and town. Then put in the street name (the number doesn’t do anything, at least not for the times I’ve tried it). You’ll get one or more ED aka Enumeration District. The census files are by ED and that is the only way to search. Add cross streets (use Google Maps for this) until you narrow it down to one ED (or more if you have no choice) and start going through them page by page.

The results for the 1940 Unified Census ED finder for Beck Street in The Bronx, NY, with one cross street added.

What if you have the right page in the right ED file and you still can’t find the person?

One of my family lines is through Max Hassan, a Polish Jew born with the name Mendel Hasensprung who is almost certainly my great grandmother’s brother (I already know he’s closely related). I’ve been fleshing out him and his wife and kids with as many documents as I can find.

The one document I was missing was the 1940 Census. I just couldn’t find them. Then I got lucky and found Max in the 1950 Census along with two of his three kids, Gerald and Annette. The census had him as widowed so then I was able to find a death index with several choices that could be Bella Hassan, his wife (in New York City between 1930 and 1950). After a few dead ends, I found a likely one from 1943, which is a year you can get full death certificates online for free. Bingo.

The cool part was that the address on the death certificate was 894 Beck Street, The Bronx, NY. The same address where they were in the 1930 census (the 1950 address was different). This meant they were there in 1940. It took me two tries to find the right ED (sometimes the same cross streets are in multiple ones) but I got it.

1940 Census entry for 894 Beck Street, The Bronx, NY, for Max, Bella, and Annette Hassem.

Unless you choose “exact,” the genealogy search engines don’t care about vowels or double letters (and they’re pretty good about alternate spellings where the names sound the same). “Hassen” (or “Hasen”) and “Hassan” might as well be the same name. But an “m” instead of an “n”? That’s a problem. No wonder I couldn’t find them with searching. And in this case, the error isn’t the transcriber’s, it’s the enumerator’s.

But wait, Max and Bella had three kids. I already had the 1940 Census for the eldest child, Ysaye, living with his wife elsewhere in New York (at the same address mentioned in his mother’s death certificate since he was the informant). But where is the baby, Gerald? He was only 12 in 1940 so there was no way he was off on his own.

894 Beck Street is a huge apartment building with dozens of families, and I checked those pages to see if he was mistakenly put with another family (maybe a relation). Nope. My searches weren’t bearing fruit. So it was time for another tactic.

Check the End!

One little trick is that sometimes a household gets missed and the enumerator adds them to the end of the ED file. If the family you’re looking for isn’t at the address you expect, check the last couple of pages. Sometimes they’re added to the end of the block, for EDs with multiple blocks (a block being the rectangle (etc) defined by 4 (or so) streets and the houses touching it.

Max, Bella, and Annette are on page 4 of the 28 pages that make up ED 3-367. Page 27 is where the extra people begin. To my surprise, the enumerator didn’t just have extra families, she had extra people within families that were already listed in the correct spots earlier on. And there was Gerald, listed as Jerold Hassem.

Jerold Hassem, age 12, in a list of extra people at 894 Beck Street.

In fact, there are four extra people from 894 Beck Street, none of which are complete families (none of the relations say “head”). For some reason, there are also no apartment numbers. So who goes with which family from pages 1-4 (all the families in the main listing from 894 Beck Street)?

I was pretty sure that Jerold Hassem was the missing son Gerold Hassan, but what about the next one, Irving Glesser, brother-in-law to someone? Glasser is Bella Hassan’s maiden name and this family often had relatives living with them. Is Irving Bella’s brother? Or just a coincidence?

What Are Those Pencil Marks?

Take a look more closely at those notations on the far left of the page. “61” in the circle is the sheet number (a number that is always in the top right corner of the page). The dark dates, April 5 and April 8, are the dates the enumerator added the names. The bulk of the ED was enumerated on April 3rd. But what’s unusual is the light pencil marks you can barely see. “3-68”? why that means sheet 3, line 68. That’s the family that entry goes with.

Jerold’s name has a “2-53” next to it. Sheet 2 covers pages 3 and 4 within the Ancestry document (computer file page numbers aren’t always the same as document page numbers, and besides, the document sheet numbers aren’t in order anyway). Sheet 2 line 53 is, surprise, Max Hassan, the head of the Hassan family. That’s where Jerold/Gerald belongs.

If you look carefully, you’ll see that there is a penciled line from the “2-53” notation that points to Jerold and another one that points to Irving. Hooray! Now I know they both live with Max and Bella.

But wait. Take another look at the main entry for the family. To the left of Max’s name is a notation “61-5.” Sheet 61, line 5 goes straight to Jerold’s entry on page 27 (which is sheet 61). Just another little confirmation.

All this makes me wonder…are there other families in the various censuses who have been broken up over multiple pages within an ED? Do those pencil marks exist on other EDs or is this just one disorganized enumerator? Once you hit the 1950 census you get missing families added the end so often it can be half the families on a page. But before that the enumerators took the time to organize their paperwork before writing up the final census documents and extra families still exist but aren’t as common.

What about you?

Have you seen this before in any Census from 1940 or earlier? Leave a comment with your experience.


Categories: Genealogy
Tags: ·

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment